Meet the Elizabethton Arts and Cultural Alliance President, Nash Acuña
Art has been a constant companion of Shanasha “Nash” Acuña since childhood.
The Elizabethton native recalled as a child being caught drawing a field of flowers on her wall, by her mother, her feet sticking out from under the bed. It was her first mural.
When she was 17 her father bought her an oil painting set. It was love at first sight.
“Art has been my constant companion through some of the most difficult things you can go through in life,” she said.
Entering into adulthood, Acuña went to work in the corporate world for recruiting and staffing, though art was still in her heart. In 2005, she gained a Career Artist certification from Penn Foster while working full-time in the staffing industry. Soon after, she was accepted to her first gallery show with On The Verge Gallery in Greeneville. It was entitled “Cowboys and Indians.” Her oil paintings were front and center.
Once the last corporate workplace she was employed for shut down, Acuña decided to focus on her art and has ever since.
Acuña is a holder of various titles, from artist to wife and mother. She also teaches art classes. Her most recent role is as the new president for the Elizabethton Arts and Cultural Alliance since Sept. 1.
Her work with the nonprofit organization began by working on projects with Robert Benfield, founder and current treasurer of the group.
“We just kind of kept having conversations about how much our community needs to feel our arts and culture,” she explained. “There’s so much talent around here.”
Now in her new role, Acuña hopes to expand the organization, including the hopes of an office space, and spreading out through Carter County. Her hope is to reach artists in the community who may feel there is nothing for them here. Acuña described knowing the struggle of finding work as an artist and providing an income for one’s family.
“We really just want to reach our community, which extends beyond downtown. We’re talking about all of Carter County,” she said.
Along with helping artists in the area, Acuña also wants to use this reach for kids, who may have talent that could otherwise not be known.
The organization is currently working with a grant they received from the Tennessee Arts Commission. The work consists of a project focused on gratitude, and on beautifying the outside of some downtown buildings, which is being done with Riverside Tap House (more information on this is to be announced). They are also looking for artists to feature in this business as well. Preliminary work has been drawn up. One hope is to involve students for a teaching aspect.
On Oct. 16, the nonprofit will also be participating in Evenings on Elk.
Alongside projects and upcoming work from the organization, volunteering and sponsorships are welcome from the public. Acuña explained that art is for everyone, regardless of what someone considers as having artistic abilities.
For Acuña, she believes art is a wonderful tool for everyone. She described that it is wonderful in times like these when uncertainty is on everyone’s mind.
“Art is a magical thing that everyone can do,” she said. “I know a lot of people say they can’t draw and they can’t do art, but there are so many types of art. We want to get that message out too.”
For more information on Acuña, check out her Facebook and Instagram at Nashartstudio. For more information on the Elizabethton Arts and Cultural Alliance, go to www.elizalliance.org.